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Danby tells Canberra, stop cheating Victoria

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THE HON MICHAEL DANBY MP
MEMBER FOR MELBOURNE PORTS
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE OPPOSITION LEADER
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR THE ARTS

Mr DANBY (Melbourne Ports) (21:09):  Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, it is good to see you better. Ever since they measured the halfway point between Sydney and Melbourne wrongly to make the nation's capital closer to New South Wales than Victoria, Melbournians have felt they are getting raw deals from the Commonwealth. Our Sydney Prime Minister, the member for Wentworth, just like the last Sydney Prime Minister, the Sydney Treasurers and their Sydney major projects ministers are doing an exceptionally good job in disadvantaging Melbourne. Never mind that Melbourne is the fastest growing city in the country, projected to overtake Sydney by 2050, and never mind that we take 35 per cent of all new immigrants to Australia, which we absolutely support and welcome because Melbourne is the most multicultural city in the country. The member for Wentworth still wants to rip off Melbourne in partisan politics, similar to the previous Prime Minister, against the popular Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews. Prime Minister Turnbull's games, just like the previous Prime Minister's games, with Victorian infrastructure spending have got to stop. I will continue to argue that Melbourne is being cheated as long as I have to, because that is exactly how most Melburnians feel.

The Victorian electorate voted for public transport in 2014 and the Andrews government has been waiting since for the federal government to fund its preferred infrastructure model, the Melbourne Metro Rail Project. This is not Victoria's arbitrary priority; it is the project that Infrastructure Australia has twice assessed, with two separate business cases, as being a top-level priority for Victoria.

Melbourne's public transport system is full. It is over capacity, in fact. The city loop is full. Trains in peak hour are well and truly full—1,200 people cramming into 800-capacity trains Tokyo-style. Train usage in Melbourne has risen 40 per cent in five years and 70 per cent in a decade. We cannot add any more trains to the city loop. We need the Metro to link the northern suburbs to the hospital and university district around Victoria Parade to the inner south and east via the Domain Interchange, which links trams and trains in my electorate of Melbourne Ports.


Click on the image to enlarge

The Victorian government has been asking for $4.5 billion for the $10.9 billion Melbourne Metro costs since it came to office. It took almost two years for the government to offer an insulting $10 million. You did not mishear me—they offered $10 million, while they kept $3 billion locked away in the cancelled East-West Link. They offered $500 million for the Monash Freeway, when the state government had only asked for part of its $400 million price tag.

The Victorian government handed down its budget last week and committed the full $11 billion to public transport, to Melbourne Metro, while running a healthier than expected surplus. Now, before the federal budget has been handed down, without even consulting the state government, we hear from News Limited there has been leaked information that the Commonwealth will give it not just $10 million but still less than $900 million—still well below the $4.5 billion needed for the project. As Victorian Treasurer, Tim Pallas, said today, this is a 'ridiculous trick' aimed at self-promotion as Victoria was going to get that money anyway under the asset recycling program, under which the Commonwealth refunds a state 15 per cent of the value of any state asset that is leased. The Victorian Treasurer said:

This money is money the Commonwealth owes the state for the lease of the Port of Melbourne. This is not new funding.

It's just a broken promise from the Coalition Government more intent on self-promotion than on integrity.

Victoria is receiving but nine per cent of infrastructure funding, compared to 36 per cent in New South Wales. Victorians have had enough. Even the Assistant Treasurer, my neighbour the member for Higgins, is apparently sick of it. She started a petition to ask the state government to expand the Melbourne Metro to South Yarra in her electorate, which is minutes away by tram from the Domain. You can be forgiven for laughing at the idea of the Assistant Treasurer of Australia starting a local petition to expand a major project her government refuses to fund. If only there was something the Assistant Treasurer could do about that.

We should not be surprised that the Prime Minister does not understand Melbourne. He told Melbourne radio 3AW that he was expanding the Western Ring Road to connect Port Melbourne to the airport. I will give the Prime Minister a geography lesson—the Western Ring Road leads to the west of Victoria and Port Melbourne is in the inner south on the eastern side of the bay. The member for Wentworth's face is up on billboards in Port Melbourne, overlapping with the Liberal candidate's face. How sad that he cannot even find Port Melbourne on a map. It is not really that far from the Melbourne Club, where the Prime Minister likes to take selfies outside before he gets on a tram for a one-off journey.

One Sydney man who knows his way to Melbourne Ports is Anthony Albanese, the member for Grayndler, the shadow minister for infrastructure, who joined me at the Domain Interchange a couple of months ago before addressing hundreds of people in the middle of a work day to discuss Labor's plans to make Melbourne public transport infrastructure and the Melbourne Metro specifically the top priority of a Labor government. The message to Melbournians is clear: if you want a government that will fund your public transport infrastructure, let alone one that can understand a map of Melbourne, you need to vote for a Labor government.

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